Climate Impacts

February 12, 2007

It’s been sunny here in the Eastern Province of Zambia for a few days which is good news for farmers. The rainy season had been wetter than most years, with no break which meant that fertiliser had washed away and the crops had insufficient sunshine.

Most people here grow their own maize, which they grind to form the national dish, nshima. Changes in the climate such as happened this year are hard to predict. The Met office had predicted a good year for agriculture, so the government was able to sell off food surpluses from last year to other countries. But the predictions proved inaccurate leaving many people vulnerable to a lack of food for the whole year.

I’ve been frustrated with some Western development workers here who suggest that Zambian’s don’t care about their environment, while they jet about the globe for week-long breaks. The emissions from my flight out here meant that I had already exceeded sustainable levels of greenhouse gas emissions for the year by several times. I use more electricity than most Zambians, and I will travel considerably more over the course of the year. Much of the food I buy is imported while most of theirs comes from within 100 yards of their house. It is people like me who cause climate change, not the huge majority of Zambians. But for now it’s them who have to deal with the problems.

It’s true that there is rubbish at the side of the road, but in the UK we produce much more, it just gets put out of sight in landfills. People love banging on about uncontrollable population growth in developing countries as the major cause of environmental degradation. But Zambia has 10 million people in an area 4 times the size of the UK. They’re hardly squeezing in.

  Charcoal cyclist

Most people walk, those that don’t use bicycles even to carry roofs, charcoal and goats. In a town of over 300,000 people I haven’t seen a traffic jam. In fact if you removed the vehicles of the development agencies, there would be very few cars here at all. Rurally very few homes have electricity, and health centres are usually powered by solar panels. If you enter Zambia as a tourist by car or air you have to pay a carbon tax. At £12 to travel the length of the country it doesn’t exactly break the bank, but it’s enough to make people think (or at least moan).

Glass bottles are always returned and reused. Everything is fixed and repaired until it can’t possibly be used anymore. The front tyre of my bicycle is now composed of several former inner-tubes cobbled together.

I’m not suggesting Zambians are angelic greenies, and I’m sure if most had the money, they would get a car or fly like we do in the UK. But its important to recognise that there are environmental problems caused here, by the activities of people in the UK and the rest of the West. Most of the excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, does not come from China and India or other developing countries, it comes from Europe and the USA. We can’t keep shifting the blame.

The average Zambian emits 0.19 tonnes of CO2 per year while the figure for Britain is 9.4 tonnes (US Department of Energy’s Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, 2003). This is FIFTY times as much.

Present global emissions per annum are estimated at about 8GT Carbon (IPCC) which equates to 30 GT of CO2 which is 30 000 MT. So in other words the USA is responsible for about 20% of all emissions, the UK for about 2% and Zambia for 0.006%! This places it 184th out of 211 countries in the world.

The most credible model of cutting greenhouse gas emissions is that of contraction and convergence. This is where rich countries reduce their emissions to a target, say 1 tonne per person, while poor countries are allowed to increase theirs to this level. If the world decides to tackle climate change in this way, Zambia will be allowed to increase its emissions by 5 times.

Maybe, rather than getting annoyed with my jetsetting colleagues, I should be comforted by the fact that Britain will warmly embrace all the climate refugees who leave Africa when their crops permanently fail…..


Yokonia Mwale, Aged 24

December 20, 2006

My name is Yokonia Mwale, I’m 24, single and live in Chipata, Zambia. I am the second born out of three.Yoko

HIV/AIDS is the biggest problem in Chipata because it has brought a lot of implications in many sectors – teaching, nursing…. Almost everyone is affected or infected in our country leaving children with no hope.

Orphanages have become rampant in our district due to HIV/AIDS, because of this, levels of illiteracy have gone high, child abuse, in particular the use of child labour has increased.


It is suspected that my mother died as a result of HIV. When she died my schooling was affected. I was in Grade ten but I managed to overcome many obstacles and support myself through to Grade twelve.

I am now head of my household supporting several children while they are in education. I hope to be able to afford to put myself through nursing school when I no longer have to give financial support to my siblings.


When my mother died I was emotionally, physically and psychologically ill. I had no where to start from. After I completed Grade 12 in 2001 I involved myself in health activities e.g. peer education, care giver, TB treatment supporter, malaria prevention and control and now I am trained psychosocial counsellor working as a volunteer at Kapata clinic and New Start centre. This has helped me a lot to cope with life.

Zambia has a large population, but few people know their rights (about 55% according to a recent survey) more especially women and children most of them are blank about their rights. Advocacy has to be put in place for every person to enjoy the being.

People living positively

October 20, 2006

Yesterday we had a training session on HIV/AIDS in Zambia. Three HIV Positive people spoke to us about their experiences advocating for their rights.


The first lady, Catherine, was diagnosed at the age of 20 in 1991. She had only slept with her boyfriend, and at that stage thought that HIV was confined to prostitutes. When she told her family and friends they reacted badly and she became isolated. Then after years of appearing on television to make everyone aware of the virus, people questioned whether she had made it up to get sympathy. But Catherine was not daunted and has continued to take action on HIV. Now people in the compound where she lives come and ask for advice.


Another man, who had been a Premier League footballer, was diagnosed with HIV 10 years ago. He has since married an HIV Positive women and had two HIV negative children aged 6 and 3. He was really keen to emphasize that HIV Positive people should have the same rights as everyone else.


It was inspiring to see these people who were not prepared to let HIV affect their lives. People can live with HIV for many years, but only if they are aware of their condition and how to manage it. Diet is important, but so is access to medicine. At the moment the big brand anti-retroviral drugs are way beyond the reach of most Zambians and big pharmaceuticals have pressurized governments into banning cheaper generics.


But with people like I met yesterday on the case I think there are lots of reasons to be positive.

Read more 



Positively Zambia has been set up as a link between young people in Zambia and the UK. The aim is to increase mutual understanding of issues facing one another, and to exchange information for campaigning on HIV & AIDS.


HIV&AIDSPeople & Planet students campaigning on AIDS

There will be a particular focus on HIV & AIDS with case studies of Zambians living with the effects of the virus. I hope to show the variety of challenges facing Zambia, and the positive responses of many to combat the virus. For young people campaigning on HIV & AIDS in the UK, this site should be used as a means to communicate with Zambians to inform your actions. I will also be showing young people in Zambia information about the UK, and getting their perspective on our campaigning.

Ask your questionsZambian Campaigners

This website is a two-way street. Please ask any questions you have about HIV & AIDS, life in Zambia, or anything else over the course of the year and myself and Zambian people will respond. This could be anything from “What is the biggest barrier to getting AIDS drugs where you live?” to “How hot does it get in summer?”. By gaining a greater understanding of the context in which people live, you should be better equipped to campaign for justice on this issue.
The causes and impacts of AIDS in Africa are as diverse as the continent itself,  go to Positively Nigeria to gain perspectives from Africa’s most populous country.

Learn about ZambiaVictoria Falls

Zambia is a fantastic country with incredibly friendly people rich in cultural heritage, amazing wildlife and in many respects a positive outlook for the future of Africa. Obviously, as one of the worlds poorest countries it also suffers from many problems. This site will seek to look at both sides of the story, allowing Zambians to have their say about their country.

Personal viewsHenry

I’ll also be posting on my experience as a Youth for Development volunteer with VSO. Look in the personal section for the highs and lows of living and working for a small NGO in Eastern Zambia. I’ll offer perspectives on broader issues such as development and gender as well as when I get the runs!